Don't disconnect entirely this holiday.
If you’re on the hook for a side dish on Thanksgiving or even the entire meal, and feeling stressed about it, technology may be able to help. That is especially true if your favorite cooking utensil is your smartphone — for texting Dominos to order another pizza.
There are several smart appliances set to come on the market in the next year or so that will do everything but prop your food for you. But while we wait for smart ovens with artificial intelligence, or sensors embedded in our kitchens and algorithms that can tell us the right way to roast a turkey, a connected thermometer and kitchen scale with Bluetooth might be the next best thing to get us going. At the very least, some of these devices let us get out of the kitchen while they do the cooking for us. See if a few of these smart devices can help turn your holiday dinner prep from drudgery to a dream.
Image courtesy of Anova
Anova Wi-Fi Precision Cooker:
“Sous vide” means fancy way to cook food learned from a $500 set of cookbooks. Actually, it’s a way of cooking food submerged in water at a steady temperature. You can cook parts of your turkey or your entire meal sous vide using a pot of hot water, a cooler or even your sink. But the Anova Wi-Fi Precision cooker makes it much easier. It’s expensive at $179, but people who try sous vide generally become converts and shout about its benefits from the rooftops—or at least their cooking blogs. And even if you don’t want to cook your turkey this way (it would be nice and juicy), there’s always these mashed potatoes. The benefits here are that you essentially prep the food, set the heat, and then forget about it. With the Wi-Fi you can now start, stop and monitor the cooking wherever you are. That’s convenient given some of these dishes can take hours.
The Range Dial Image courtesy of Supermechanical
Range Dial: The secret to a well-cooked bird? A thermometer. If you’re feeling geeky make it a connected thermometer like the $100 Range Dial, which lets you connect a thermometer to this engineered dial, set it to the desired animal symbol (you can program a temperature or use the symbols displayed on the dial) and wait until your food is done. The cord and temperature probe is oven proof to 450-degrees, so it goes in the oven while the electronics stay outside. When the food is done, your phone warbles. You’d have to wait for the Dial until March, but you can order the Range thermometer today. Or you can skip ahead to the next option.
The iDevices kitchen thermometer. Image courtesy of iDevices.
iDevices Kitchen Thermometer: For $80 you can connect your iPhone and the temperature probe to your casseroles or turkey from the maker of the original iGrill thermometer that worked with the iPhone. Again, when your food is done cooking, your phone will beep. The nice thing about this thermometer is that it connects to a base station, so your phone isn’t held hostage near whatever you are cooking. Still the Bluetooth range on this device is a reported to be 10 to 12 feet according to the reviews, not the stated 150 feet in the device specs. So be careful walking too far away from your tasty treats.
The Drop Kitchen Scale. Image courtesy of Drop
Drop Kitchen Scale: This Bluetooth-connected scale now does double duty helping you whip up baked goods and savory recipes to eat as well as preparing the perfect cocktails to serve guests as they arrive. The $100 Drop is a heavy-duty scale that connects to an iPad or iPhone, and provides a selection of recipes in the Drop app. Following along with the recipes offers highly visual cues on Drop’s custom “instruction cards” so you know when to stop adding more flour for example. The scale doesn’t have a display on it, so you have to hook it up to your phone or iPad to see weights if you aren’t using one of the Drop recipes. I’ve tested this device with my daughter, and found it to work exactly as advertised. And since Drop added cocktails to the mix in October, I’m picking one up for Christmas this year. The connectivity lets even novice bakers (or bartenders), create up a perfect mix every time just by following the instructions on the iPad or iPhone.
The Amazon Echo in my kitchen. Stacey Higginbotham/Fortune
Amazon Echo: The Amazon Echo is a speaker and great for turning your lights on and off using your voice. But in the kitchen it not only can serenade a frazzled chef with holiday classics, but it also has become a de facto kitchen timer and source of information. Ask the Echo how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, and it will tell you. It also can tell you what certain odd ingredients are (such as a sunchoke or parsnip). I’d love to see the Echo equipped with the ability to suggest substitutions like when a recipe calls for buttermilk and I’m all out. Still for $180 this product is a workhorse, providing entertainment, information, and maybe more one day.
The Hapifork line. Courtesy of Hapi.
The Hapifork: I’m not sure I need an $80 Bluetooth connected fork to vibrate and tell me to slow down when I eat. However, if you’re the type of person who wants to be reminded to not shovel your food, the Hapifork can help. It can be set to train eaters to take bites every 10 seconds (that’s the default setting) or can be set for custom time intervals. Because Thanksgiving is one of those meals where you tend to eat too fast and thus, eat too much, slowing down would probably help reduce the number of calories you eat. By taking a breath, you’d realize that you don’t really want that third helping of stuffing.
Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker: Here’s another product that lets you give your oven a rest. You can use the connectivity to control the temperature from your couch or the grocery store in case you had to go out to pick up some forgotten ingredients. Or if you’re like me, and have something that requires a long cook time, you can set it from your bed. But at $130, this is a lot to pay for what is essentially remote access to a slow cooker. If I were going to throw down that much for a connected kitchen product, I’d probably just buy the sous vide.
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